Karlovy Vary 2021 Review: German Acid-Laced Tragicomedy NÖ Hilariously Anatomizes the Anxieties of a Millennial Relationship and Parenthood

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Karlovy Vary 2021 Review: German Acid-Laced Tragicomedy NÖ Hilariously Anatomizes the Anxieties of a Millennial Relationship and Parenthood

German director Dietrich Brüggemann returned to Karlovy Vary after his previous successful works Station of the Cross and Heil bowed on the screens of the largest Czech film gathering. Joining forces once again with his sister Anna Brüggemann, who co-penned the script and stars in one of the leading roles of , the siblings take a satiric stab at relationships, adulthood, and parenthood of the contemporary 30+ generation. Brüggemann rehashes the formalism of Station of the Cross in a slightly surreal dramedy that leans heavier on the comic side to the delights and guffaws of the audience.

The front and center of lies the relationship between actress Dina (Anna Brüggemann) and surgeon Michael (Alexander Khuon) starting with their pillow talk about different aspirations and their future(s). Dina feels ready for kids, while Michael does not want to make that commitment yet. However, they decide to remain together and deal with kids in due time. Brüggemann maps the ups and downs of their relationship and its inevitable disintegration in a series of 13 self-contained one-shot vignettes, sketches, chapters, and scenes from a marriage that never happened (the pathological postponing of Dina and Michael´s marriage turns eventually into a running gag).

Brüggemanns map the lifecycle of a relationship in the 21st century throughout its several phases in a portrait of a generation. In a wider perspective, is a tragicomic comedy of manners and a social satire of the middle-class ideal of domestic life according to stereotypes that get twisted whenever possible. The central couple fulfills social norms and expectations although the template proves not to be the universal recipe for a happy life. Anxieties, dilemmas, regrets are channeled throughout Dina and Michael as well as their close ones in a mischievous dissection of parenthood and adulthood that manages to serve life´s hard cold truths in a spicy sarcastic manner.

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While the tribulations of millennials - emotional, psychological, and beyond - are receiving a feature-length treatment. Nevertheless, it is not the substance but the form that makes the significant distinction of  compared to other similarly-laden works in cinema, TV or literature. Brüggemann returns to his aesthetics of separate single-shot vignettes of Station of the Cross although he does not hold so rigidly to the principle of an unmovable camera. From scene to scene, DoP Alexander Sass (of Station of the Cross) moves within the frame and in one extravagant case even runs with the camera throughout a hospital corridor in a Saving Private Ryan-style as a witty hyperbole to the angst and misery of recent motherhood.

Brüggemanns tap into their more playful side compared to Station of the Cross in the acid-laced tragicomedy of  squeezing absurd and dark moments out of the familiar scenes of quotidian life. Surprisingly,  commands a big number of situational one-liners that tend to provoke salves of laughter in public screenings, but Anna and Dietrich Brüggemann´s comedy unfolds also through longer build-ups and surreal payoffs. The comic style married to the film´s aesthetics turns out to be an effectively functioning symbiosis of Simon Rich whimsical comedy and Roy Andersson´s formalism.

Despite  being audience-friendly and courting a potential outside the narrow aisles of arthouse cinema, the Brüggemanns are not afraid to reach for extreme material. One particular vignette of funeral rites segues into savage mode, although gross-out and transgressive comedy gets involved, it never slumps into a bad taste. Brüggemanns keeps the comedy under full control with precise navigation in the darker corners. When one scene appears to be approaching a sentimental tone, the writers include a man with an open stomach and innards sticking out to dish pearls of wisdom about how to treat a partner with a nostalgic pang and hidden regret (which turns out to be the primary sentiment of the generation of Michael´s parents).

Unexpected turns and twists when figurative become literally in the playful mode of Simon Rich undercut with Andersson´s acerbic humor turn into a lo-fi grotesque farce skewering the social norm of millennials. If Toni Erdmann is the benchmark of German comedy, Nö succeeds in producing more chuckles without the phantom sentimentality while bending millennial mores to strange horizons for wicked fun.

Dietrich Brüggemann won the Best Director award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2021.

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Director(s)
  • Dietrich Brüggemann
Writer(s)
  • Anna Brüggemann
  • Dietrich Brüggemann
Cast
  • Anna Brüggemann
  • Alexander Khuon
  • Isolde Barth
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Karlovy Vary 2021Dietrich BrüggemannAnna BrüggemannAlexander KhuonIsolde BarthComedy

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